Maryland transportation’s plan needs to be multimodal
Governor Hogan’s first transportation secretary recently resigned and on his way out the door he told a newspaper, “I believe we still have a disproportionate share of the (transportation) trust fund going to transit.”
What the departing secretary never seemed to understand about Maryland is that focusing on multiple modes of transportation: bus, rail, air, sea, bike, feet and yes, cars, is a feature, not a bug, of the state’s system.
Fifty years ago, the Curlett Commission proposed reorganizing the executive branch in Maryland into a Cabinet form government. As to transportation, the report said it would “include programs and agencies primarily concerned with the transportation of people and goods within and through the State.”
That original mission statement does not mention cars or roads. It proposed the combination of 13 agencies or state commissions under a consolidated Maryland Department of Transportation. Following this vision, the department and a consolidated Transportation Trust Fund, our state’s multimodal transportation budget, was established in 1971 under the visionary leadership of our state’s first MDOT secretary (and future governor) Harry Hughes.
Since that time, that multi-modal mission has advanced. The Port of Baltimore is booming and BWI-Thurgood Marshall Airport has the most passengers of any airport in the D.C. region. Plenty of roads, tunnels and bridges have been built and, to be sure, there is work to do to maintain that necessary infrastructure.
What is now the Maryland Transit Administration provides local subway, light rail and bus service in the Baltimore region. MDOT began subsidizing private commuter rail in 1974, and that evolved into the state’s MARC commuter rail service in 1984.
In a series of legislative steps over the years, the state has picked up more of the costs for the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority that used to be the responsibility of local governments and taxpayers, culminating in regional, bipartisan passage of dedicated funding in 2018.
But despite that long-term multimodal trend, the largest share of the state’s transportation capital spending has always gone to the State Highway Administration in both state and federally budgeted funds. The Hogan administration cut the Baltimore region Red Line light rail project; has slowed down any progress on the Southern Maryland Rapid Transit plan; slated for elimination the Bus Rapid Transit Corridor Cities Transitway and abandoned support for other BRT lines; under-invested in MTA’s capital needs by $200 million per year, according to their own estimates; and has no new transit projects in the planning stage for the first time in anyone’s memory.
It has done all this while promoting a pie-in-the-sky four lane mega highway toll lane widening that will allegedly cost the state no money; pose no taxpayer risk; solve all of our traffic problems; not require the taking of any land; and will somehow help the environment (none of which can be achieved).
Maryland needs to remember the founding multimodal mission of MDOT and the need to move people, not cars, while also recognizing the role transportation infrastructure has to play in economic development and preserving our environment. Over the next few years, Maryland needs to:
We must undertake all of this while we maintain, enhance and make safer the existing road network that we have, including our bridges and tunnels, and ensure equitable access for all Marylanders, whether they be economically disadvantaged or in need of paratransit.
These are just some examples of the work the legislative and executive branches need to undertake together, along with our county and municipal partners, community members, and other stakeholders, as we look towards building a successful future for Maryland’s multimodal transportation system.
Marc Korman is a delegate in the 16th District for Maryland House of Delegates.
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The Governor's budget proposal was released today and can be found at https://dbm.maryland.gov/. As a member of the Appropriations Committee, a significant amount of my time will be taken up by a review of the budget proposal, which we must pass to conclude our legislative session. Maryland has a unique, executive-driven budget that limits the legislature's ability to add funds to particular programs (we can reduce budget line items). I will have many further comments about the budget in future emails.
In June of 2019, the Board of Public Works designated the Governor's proposed lane expansion on I-270 and I-495 as a Public Private Partnership (P3) under state law. The designation was made subject to several conditions set forth by the Comptroller, one of three votes on the Board of Public Works. The Maryland Department of Transportation sought revisions to that approval, which the Board granted last week. The item as approved can be reviewed by clicking here.
I have introduced my first few bills of the legislative session, all of which I wrote about in last week's email. The Maryland/Metro Transit Funding Act - Alterations (HB 86) passed the House of Delegates last year. It would make some technical changes to the Metro dedicated funding bill from 2018 and remove the arbitrary 3% operating subsidy cap that was included in the original legislation. The Access to Vaccines Act (HB 87) allows mature minors to opt-in for vaccinations, as many other states currently allow. The Electric Vehicle Recharging Equipment for Multifamily Units Act (HB 111) is legislation that passed the House of Delegates in 2019 to clarify the rules for the use of electric charging infrastructure in communities with Condo Boards or Homeowners Associations. I will continue to introduce legislation up to February 7th, the deadline to submit legislation.
One of the first orders of business of the new legislative session will be a consideration of the Governor's vetoes from 2019. Maryland Matters summarized the eight bills at issue.
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